Griffith v. Hilliard

Decision Date05 November 1892
Citation25 A. 427,64 Vt. 643
CourtVermont Supreme Court


Bill for an injunction to restrain the cutting of timber. Heard at the September term, 1890, Rutland county, upon the demurrer embodied in the defendant's answer. Taft, chancellor dismissed the bill. The orator appeals.

J C. Baker, for the orator.


The defendant, John H. Hilliard, by the demurrer contained in his answer, claims that a Court of Equity has no jurisdiction of the matters alleged in the bill. The bill alleges, among other things, that the orator is the owner of the land in question; that its substantial value is made up of the wood and timber growing thereon; that some of the defendants, under a license from the defendant Hilliard, have entered upon the land, are engaged in cutting and drawing timber therefrom, and threaten to continue to do so.

For the purpose of determining the question now before the court these allegations must be taken as true. To permit this wood and timber to be cut in the manner the defendants are doing and threatening to do, under a license from defendant Hilliard, is to permit a destruction of the orator's estate as it has been held and enjoyed. The power of a Court of Equity to interpose by injunction to prevent irreparable injury and the destruction of estates is well established, and this power has been construed to embrace trespasses of the character complained of in the orator's bill.

Where trespass to property consists of a single act, and it is temporary in its nature and effect, so that the legal remedy of an action at law for damages is adequate, equity will nor interfere; but if, as in this case, repeated acts are done or threatened, although each of such acts, taken by itself, may not be destructive to the estate or inflict irreparable injury, and the legal remedy may, therefore, be adequate for each single act if it stood alone, the entire wrong may be prevented or stopped by injunction. Smith v. Rock et al., 59 Vt. 232; Langdon v. Templeton, 61 Vt. 119; Erhardt v. Boaro et al., 113 U.S. 537; The West Point Iron Co., v. Reymert et al., 45 N.Y. 703; Falls Village Water Power Co., v. Tibbetts, 31 Conn. 165; Irwin v. Dixion et al., 50 U.S. 10, 28; Livingston v. Livingston, 6 Johns. Ch. 496; High on Injunctions, 724-727; Shipley v. Ritter, 7 Md. 408 (61 Am. Dec. 371); Scudder v. Trenton Delaware Falls Co. et al., (23 Am. Dec. 756); 1 N.J.Eq. 694; 1 Pomeroy's Eq. Jur., sec. 245; 3 Pomeroy's Eq. Jur., sec. 1357; Murphy v. Lincoln et al., 63 Vt. 278.

In the case of Murphy v. Lincoln et al., supra, the bill charged the committing of several trespasses by the defendants by drawing wood and logs across the orator's land. The defendants claimed a right of way. The Court found the issue of fact in favor of the orator and held that a Court of Equity had jurisdiction to enjoin the commission of a series of trespasses, although the legal remedy be adequate for each single act if it stood alone.

It is said by Judge Story in his work on Equity Jur., vol. 2, ss. 928 and 929: "If the trespass be fugitive and temporary, and adequate compensation can be obtained in an action at law, there is no ground to justify the interposition of Courts of Equity. Formerly, indeed, Courts of Equity were extremely reluctant to interpose at all, even in regard to cases of repeated trespasses. But now there is not the slightest hesitation if the acts done or threatened to be done to the property would be ruinous or irreparable, or would impair the just enjoyment of the property in the future. In short, it is now granted in all cases of timber, coals, ores, and quarries, where the party is a mere trespasser, or where he exceeds the limited right with which he is clothed, upon the ground that the acts are, or may be, an irreparable damage to the particular species of property."

In the West Point Iron Co. v. Reymert et al., supra, it is said that mines, quarries, and timber are protected by injunction, upon the ground that injuries to, and depredations upon, them are, or may cause, an irreparable damage, and, also, with a view to prevent a multiplicity of actions for damages, which might accrue from continuous violations of the rights of the owners; and that it is not necessary that the right should be first established in an action at law.

In Erhardt v. Boaro et al., supra, Mr. Justice Field says: "It is now a common practice in cases where irremediable mischief is being done or threatened, going to the destruction of the substance of the estate, such as the extracting of ores from a mine, or the cutting down of timber or the removal of coal, to issue an injunction, though the title to the premises be in litigation. The authority of the Court is exercised in such cases, through its preventive writ, to preserve the property from destruction pending legal proceedings for the determination of the title."

When it appears that the title is in dispute, the Court may, in its discretion, issue a temporary injunction and continue it in force for such time as may be necessary to enable the orator to establish his title in a court of law, and may make the injunction perpetual when the orator has thus established his title; or the Court may proceed and determine which party has the better title; or it may dismiss the bill and leave the orator to his legal remedy. Bacon v. Jones, 4 Mylne & Craig 433; The Duke of Beaufort v. Morris, 6 Hare 340; Campbell v. Scott, 11 Sim. 31; Kerr on Injunctions, 209; Ingraham v. Dunnell et al., 46 Mass. 118; Rooney v. Soule, 45 Vt. 303; Wing, Admr., v. Hall et al., 44 Vt. 118; Lyon v. McLaughlin, 32 Vt. 423; Hastings, Admr., v. Perry et al., 20 Vt. 272; Barnes v. Dow, 59 Vt. 530; Barry v. Harris, 49 Vt. 392.

In Bacon v. Jones, supra, Lord Cottingham says: "The jurisdiction of this Court is founded upon legal rights; the plaintiff coming into court on the assumption that he has the legal right, and the Court granting its assistance on that ground. When a party applies for the aid of the Court, the application for an injunction is made either during the progress of the suit or at the hearing; and, in both cases, I apprehend great latitude and discretion are allowed to the Court in dealing with the application. When the application is for an interlocutory injunction, several courses are open; the Court may at once grant the injunction simpliciter, without more; a course which, though perfectly competent to the Court, is not very likely to be taken where the defendant raises a question as to the validity of the plaintiff's...

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